The Real Journey My Father and I Share

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I was always a Daddy’s Girl. When my mother and sister would work on complex jigsaw puzzles, Dad and I would go for walks in the woods. When they’d spend Saturdays shopping, Dad and I would go to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. He’d discuss individual works with me, from Andy Warhol’s 100 Cans,┬áto Alexander Calder’s The Cone, to Marisol’s The Generals (which I still don’t like). In fact, on more than one occasion, Dad’s talks to me about the works became so animated that crowds gathered around us. They thought he was a gallery guide.

When I was thirteen, we lived in Washington, D.C. It was there that, unexpectedly to me, my parents divorced. And I learned early that when someone is hurt by someone they love, they strike back in any way they can. My mother abruptly moved my sister and me to Wisconsin, where we’d always spent our summers, to be near the love and support of her parents. And just like that, this Daddy’s Girl now had a total of one week a year–just seven days–to be with her father.

My mother and I bonded. She’s the one who endured the drama of my junior high and high school years with love and patience. She became my confidante and gave me daily encouragement. In that time before smart phones and personal computers, Dad and I would talk on the phone when we could. I know he wrote many letters to me and, while I would write back from time to time, I’m sure they were as lacking in depth as they were in frequency. We kept each other informed about the highlights in our separate lives…he remarried, I left for college.

And then, as sometimes happens, I hit a rough patch. It was Dad who reached out to me, gave me his hand, and pulled me back on track. He had me move to Philadelphia, to initially live with him, his wife, and their daughter, Sarah, who was not yet a year old. Odd how in hindsight, some of the temporarily dark times yield wonderful, lasting treasures. I continue to have a close relationship with my younger sister, whom I otherwise would have barely known. And Dad and I reconnected. He knew who I was again and I was reacquainted with him. Our lives went in different directions as I got married and he remarried, but what had been damaged had been healed.

A few years ago, a cousin who had recently lost her father told me that what she especially cherished were the trips she and her father had taken, just the two of them. Which made me wonder, what if Dad and I went on road trips together? One week a year, as had been our routine so long ago, but this time, we’d have the opportunity to truly connect and have the kind of meaningful conversations that only happen when you’re in a car with someone for several hours a day.

So it began two years ago. On the road and over meals in restaurants, we talk and confide in each other. Instead of exchanging reports about our lives, we talk about the mystery of life, the things we are grateful for, and the questions we have that don’t really demand answers. We stay in Wisconsin for the most part, Dad’s home state and where I now live…where so many formative memories for both of us lie. And we create new memories. This Thursday, we’ll begin our third Father-Daughter road trip. It feels very new, yet in some ways, like a tradition already.

We don’t know how many of these trips are in the future. But, through this long and winding road, we’ve learned to cherish the present and this Daddy’s Girl couldn’t be happier for her father to be her traveling companion.

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